Blazers’ Lillard tried getting in Suns C Deandre Ayton’s head for key free throws

Oct 22, 2022, 10:35 AM
Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots while defended by Deandre Ayton #22 of the P...
Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots while defended by Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half at Moda Center on December 14, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton earned a trip to the free-throw line down 113-111 with 1.2 seconds left on the road in overtime against the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night.

After a timeout, Blazers guard Damian Lillard was seen on the TV broadcast saying something to Ayton, with the big man looking ahead and not acknowledging the veteran.

Lillard told reporters postgame his strategy to get in Ayton’s head, and he got his desired result as the Suns’ center missed the critical first free throw.

“I only asked him, ‘Have you ever been in this situation before?'” Lillard said. “It’s not easy when you have to make the free throws, it’s not an easy situation to be in. The whole game doesn’t come down to one possession … but you’re looking at it like, ‘This is a chance to tie the game.’

“… I just wanted him to think about it a little bit. … He ignored me, and when he ignored me I was pretty sure he was thinking about it, these big free throws.”

Ayton had to miss the second free throw intentionally based on the time, which he executed perfectly. The ball bounced right to Suns backup big man Jock Landale, who missed the put back at the horn. Phoenix fell to 1-1 while Portland improved to 2-0.

The Suns were outdone at the stripe Friday night, hitting 15 of 21 attempts while the Blazers shot 31-for-36.

Ayton had an otherwise impactful game with 26 points and six rebounds.

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